How to have agency, get unstuck and make better decisions ⭐ 🗝️

This article on having agency was inspired by Issue 13 of the CFP newsletter.

In their book, The Power of Agency, Paul Napper and Anthony Rao define agency as:

We feel stuck when we’re out of balance. When we feel more anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed, the stress hormone, cortisol, increases in the body. This inhibits our ability to make good decisions. Psychologists refer to the inability to make good decisions due to mounting stress as the main reason for the loss of agency. Having agency and making good decisions on our own terms is important because it helps us live a meaningful life.

The age of anxiety

The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks the United States as the most anxious country on earth. 1 in 5 or 40 million Americans are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. In September 2020, Americans reported feeling more anxious and depressed during Covid-19 than at any previous period. The data suggests billions of people around the world have experienced some form of unexpected emotional turmoil and trauma from Covid-19.

Different emotions

A licensed social worker who has practiced psychotherapy for 6 decades in the U.S describes how overwhelmed and stressed people are today:

A 17-year-old high school senior describes a typical day:

Dr. Gabor Mate, a renowned Canadian addiction and trauma expert, and author says:

What’s the result when we are disconnected from ourselves for a long time? What happens when practicing self-care isn’t enough? We need to find support in other ways.

Collective Community Care

Nakita Valerio is a Canadian community organizer and researcher. She tweeted about community over self-care in 2019 before the pandemic:

Valerio says community care involves:

The global rallies of solidarity with American protestors following George Floyd’s murder showed how communities can empower people. But personal community care can be just as helpful. During the pandemic, we saw many examples of community care like getting groceries for someone, cooking someone a meal, comforting a friend who was grieving, or connecting with someone who was alone and lonely.

Ted Lasso

The hit TV show, Ted Lasso, on Apple’s streaming service shows us how individuals can find agency through their community. It was my favorite show in 2020 with Season 2 releasing on July 23rd, 2021. Director and lead actor, Jason Sudeikis, and the sitcom veteran writer, Bill Lawrence were interviewed about the show’s positivity and success:

The show does a great job balancing and overcoming real-life drama and tragedy with comedy. It sees the characters finding their agency by supporting each other and being reminded to believe in themselves.

Community care over self-care

The buzzword today is self-care. If self-care isn’t enough, are you suppose to give up and be invisible until things are better? Abeni Jones writes that self-care is:

Community Care

Community care has the potential to rescue someone when they are unable on their own. An important question to ask someone who has lost their agency is:

Everyone has breakdowns in life. It’s better for everyone to help others when you can so they reciprocate when they can.

Indigenous and Native peoples

We've been hearing a lot about how agency of Indigenous and Native peoples was taken away through indoctrination and dehumanization in Canada and the U.S. for decades. Natalie Diaz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Latina and Mojave American poet perfectly captures their invisibility and pain in her poem, American Arithmetic. Some passages are below.

American Arithmetic

- Natalie Diaz

Regaining your agency

Napper and Rao in The Power of Agency, provide 7 principles to regain your agency, make good decisions, and live life on your own terms.

  1. Control Stimuli. Reduce the frequency of electronics like cell phones, tablets and televisions. Stop multi-tasking. Instead, focus on fewer things and get clear on what is most important.
  2. Associate selectively. As we move out of the pandemic, spend time with people who support, admire and challenge you. Choose positive friends who inspire and energize you.
  3. Move around more. A healthy mind needs a healthy body. Spend more time with Mother Nature and reduce sitting in front of screens and televisions. Try to move at least 30 minutes per day. Sleep better and take breaks and naps when your body sends you a reminder.
  4. Practice lifelong learning. Learn from the best people and resources. Embrace growth by learning from mistakes. Listen more and ask more questions. Be open to learning from others.
  5. Manage your emotions and beliefs. Being successful requires the physical and the emotional to be in harmony. Be open-minded and flexible. Remain open to different worldviews and change your mind based on negative beliefs and assumptions.
  6. Check your intuition. Tap into your inner wisdom by combining intuition and logical reasoning to make better decisions. When something feels wrong, evaluate the information and get assistance from your community.
  7. Reflect, decide and act with agency. Spend time deliberating important decisions and then act. After taking action, review how things develop and learn from errors made. Minimize indecision. After making a decision, try not to engage in “what if” thoughts that lead to regrets.

It helps to have people to lean on when you’ve lost your agency and need a helping hand from your community.

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Flavian DeLima

Marketer. Strategist. Consultant. Collaborator. Tinker on the edges…fandoms, creators, entertainment, community, collab & authenticity. Play @collab4purpose